In April, Max Kennedy, Jr. — the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy — “sent an anonymous complaint to Congress detailing dangerous incompetence in the Administration’s response to the pandemic,” even though he had signed a nondisclosure agreement. According to a September 21 New Yorker article, Kennedy attempted to blow the whistle while volunteering for Trump’s COVID-19 task force. “I just couldn’t sleep,” Kennedy told The New Yorker. “I was so distressed and disturbed by what I’d seen.”
Kennedy joined the White House COVID-19 Supply-Chain Task Force, a group Jared Kushner formed, in March. The group aimed to “get vital personal protective equipment, such as masks, to virus hot spots.” When Kennedy showed up on his first day with fellow young volunteers, he realized that they wouldn’t just be playing supporting roles: “We were the entire frontline team for the federal government.” The volunteers were instructed to use their personal computers and private email accounts to locate “desperately needed medical supplies,” according to The New Yorker.
Kennedy soon saw that the task force was ill-equipped to handle such a large-scale crisis. “It was the number of people who show up to an after-school event, not to run the greatest crisis in a hundred years,” he said. Kennedy was also disturbed by “the way the President was downplaying the crisis.” “I knew from that room that he was saying things that just weren’t true,” he told The New Yorker.
Why did the administration use volunteers to handle these important tasks? Kennedy believes that this choice was made “in order to sidestep government experts and thereby ‘control the narrative.’” Kennedy also claims that Brad Smith, one of the political appointees in charge of the task force, “pressured him to create a model fudging the projected number of fatalities; Smith wanted the model to predict a high of a hundred thousand U.S. deaths, claiming that the experts’ models were ‘too severe.’” Kennedy then allegedly told Smith that he lacked any experience in diseased modelling and refused to undertake the task.
Kennedy claims that “the volunteers were also instructed to prioritize requests from the President’s friends and supporters.” Fox News show host Jeanine Pirro allegedly “demanded that masks be shipped to a hospital she favored.” Additionally, the volunteers were told, “to direct millions of dollars’ worth of supplies to only five preselected distributors.” Kennedy was frustrated by the task force’s overall lack of coordination and organization.
The government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis became evident when frontline medical workers struggled to acquire the supplies they needed. In late March, a photo from a New York City hospital circulated in the news: it displayed health workers being forced to use garbage bags as gowns and wear pre-worn masks.
Kennedy claimed that Kushner visited the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offices sporadically, inquiring if the task force volunteers needed anything and “promising fixes by the end of the day.” “But I never saw a single thing that Kushner promised change,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy wrote a complaint to the House Oversight Committee “after two or three weeks of growing distress,” then quit the task force in April. He is now “working on the Democrats’ 2020 election efforts” and will be featured in a new documentary by Alex Gibney called “Totally Under Control.”
“If you see something that might be illegal and cause thousands of civilian lives to be lost, a person has to speak out,” Kennedy said. According to Kennedy, the government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis “was like a family office meets organized crime, melded with ‘Lord of the Flies.’ It was a government of chaos.”